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If you experienced a double-take when your eyes reached the author's name, award yourself ten points for knowing that Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. If you recognized the name of John Atanasoff, give yourself a hundred points, and that, in a sense is the point of this book: Iowa State University physics professor John Vincent Atanasoff (1903-1995) remains an almost totally unknown pioneer of the digital age and therein lies Smiley's tale. It was in a small-town bar in the late 1930s that the electrical engineer son of an Bulgarian immigrant father hit on the ingenious idea that the binary number system, electronic switches, and capacitors mounted on a moving drum could transform mathematical calculations. His prescient insights were, unfortunately, not patented, but time, as Smiley artfully explains, eventually corrected that oversight. A fascinating crossover read about one man's greatest brainstorms.